Approach, avoidance, and daily affect in marriage: Testing a differential exposure-reactivity model

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Jean-Philippe Laurenceau, Committee Chair


Although research has linked personality to marital outcomes such as satisfaction and divorce, processes by which personality influence romantic relationships continue to remain elusive. Here, I propose that approach and avoidance motivational sensitivities can affect relationship outcomes through exposure and reactivity to daily relationship events. In this study, 97 newlywed couples completed measures assessing both global and relationship-specific approach and avoidance motivational sensitivities, along with daily measures of positive affect, positive relationship behaviors, anxious affect, and negative relationship behaviors using electronic palm-top devices. The results supported an exposure effect, such that perceived and self-reported negative behavior mediated the link between relationship-specific avoidance motivation and anxious affect for wives. Self-reported positive behaviors and perceived partner positive behaviors mediated the link between relationship-specific approach motivation and positive affect for husbands. Additionally, a reactivity effect was found whereby relationship-specific avoidance motivation moderated the relationship between negative partner behavior and anxiety for wives. No reactivity effects were found for husbands. These findings highlight the importance of relationship-specific motivational tendencies over more general appetitive and aversive motivations as predictors of behavior and affect within the context of marriage.


Psychology, Clinical

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